Fall in Florida today is fine: breezy and cool with wind-chimes ringing off my mom’s front porch; but it’s not the same as fall in a place where leaves change colors to vibrant oranges, golds, and rust burgundy. When palm leaves flutter and fronds of non-deciduous trees and foliage wave in response to winds off the ocean, it’s not the same as seeing falling leaves’ fair-wells. It’s not the same as seeing them dance gracefully with butterflies hovering over vestiges of hay fields, pausing on their migratory paths, to join in a seasonal celebration of harvest and preparation for the meditative posture of winter. It’s not the same as hearing dried up leaves crunch beneath your boots, or hearing the scratch and feeling the pull of the ground beneath a rake intent on gathering compost for next year’s garden. Gathering yard waste to be dragged to a curbside for pickup by a recycling truck is not the same as trimming off bushes and pruning vines that burn in a slow fire, while digging sweet potatoes out of the ground to store for winter, and delighting in the sound of wood being split to stack for a wood-stove or fireplace.
Please don’t get me wrong. I understand Florida is the place where many find refuge from the harsh cold and paralyzing precipitation of ice and snow, at least three to four months out of the year; but changes of the season is not so wonderfully experienced here as it is in the Northeast or Midwest, especially if one is fortunate enough to be out in a countryside where rolling hills, combines, and the aromas of last- chance outdoor cooking, are a part of everyday life in the months of September through November. Waking with the sunrise, retreating inside at sunset, or lingering before bedtime out under an open sky, able to see a wondrous constellation overhead and hearing cows bawl or coyotes howl…..this you don’t get in the “Sunshine” state with its more refined forms of entertainment or endless beach walks.
I already miss mowing grass. I miss weeding flowerbeds and bedding down strawberry plants. I miss hanging out the flag that says “Welcome Fall!” I miss the feeling that I’m doing essential work to prepare for a period of dormancy when all living creatures will need a place to hibernate and find closeness and company, as the harshness of winter months close in. I miss the smell of the kitchen: making jellies, pies, sweet breads, and hearty soups to share with a companion or neighbors or family.
I’m coming to the conclusion there’s no substitute for the impetus you feel as part of nature’s rhythm, to get out and do something more with a sense of urgency and instability that’s invigorating— a kind of “living on the edge” not easily found in a place where the weather is always agreeable. Someday, I want another chance. I want to find again what I thought I was going towards 7 years ago when I moved out of the mayhem of the Baltimore/Washington DC “triangle” in pursuit of a simpler, more basic, self-sufficient lifestyle: living off the land, digging in the dirt, enjoying the out of doors, and someone with whom to share a meal or a hot beverage, who understands you are in a rhythm of life that is restorative in ways a life in the city or larger town hasn’t the ability to provide. I will wait for it. But movement is more comfortable for me than waiting for seasons to change again.
So, for now, I need to be “forward thinking”. Move deliberately away from that dream. And yet, somehow, I don’t want to let that dream die without a fight—-another round in the ring. I want the dream to work with all it’s predictable drama—or at least become a balance to life, apart from a place I now reside, that seems to demand more and move faster than I’d imagined—one that has not yet proven to be the foundation for a “life abundant” that resonates with me at the core of who I am and want to become.
I now understand the objections of my youngest son when he relocated from Maryland to Florida during his high school years. I now understand why he now “over-winters” in Colorado, amid the snow and cold and coziness only found when you need bundling up. I now understand something of the need for experiencing a rhythm of life through seasonal changes that are more than barely perceptible.
Forgive me native Floridians and well-transitioned transplants. I was born in a land of heat and sun—Texas— and I normally prefer warmth to cold; but I was raised predominately in a region of our country where nature’s drama is not so much about wind and water, as complete environmental changes that engage all of the senses in a more dramatic and invigorating way. And now I am missing it, allowing nostalgic thoughts to visit me today. I confess, I’ll probably appreciate the sun and surf more when the bitter winds and back-breaking snow-shoveling part of winter predictably descend on our more northern neighbors. But for now I am sad not to be among those storing their summer clothes and taking warmer wardrobes out of boxes and bins. In the mean time, I’ll have to be content with pumpkins imported from New Mexico and apples trucked in from Washington state to try and convince me it’s Fall—– as I remember and now treasure it.